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Friday, March 31, 2017

F3 Waking from Another's Dream

            The lecture hall erupted in applause as everyone stood, giving Alex a standing ovation.
            She blinked, trying to clear the last of the vision—memory?—from her mind. She scarcely remembered what she had just been saying. It all felt hazy, like a dream, while the image of Lee penning his letter was vivid.
            Which is just absurd. While Lee almost certainly did intentionally flub Gettysburg, there’s no way he would ever put pen to paper detailing the deed. Burning the letter would be a convenient excuse for there not to be any proof, but we can’t use nonexistent proof.
            The vision was insistent, and had all the details just right, though.
            “Dr. Conrad,” A student pushed her way onto the stage, “How did you determine that the battle plan at Gettysburg was an attempt to make the Confederacy lose?”
            The question helped cut through some of the vision, and she remembered her own research. “Lee was at odds with Gen. Longstreet, and uncharacteristically impatient, especially to attack. When you look at the diagram and disposition of forces, it really makes no sense for Lee to press an attack, especially to the extent he did. Logic, then, suggests that something else was afoot. I’d go into more detail, but then you wouldn’t have reason to take my class or buy my new book,” she winked.

Monday, March 27, 2017

M3 Counterparts

            The elevation of Persephone to Queen of the Underworld ends up leveling the playing field of the Greek hierarchy. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades each stand as rulers of a separate domain (sky, earth, and underworld, respectively). Now, though, each of these men has a female counterpart with as much or more power than the man. After witnessing Demeter’s mastery over crops and agriculture, her power over the earth cannot be denied. While Poseidon is the Earthshaker himself, Demeter’s power has a far more personal and lasting effect on humanity. People can survive the occasional earthquake, but not so much a crop failure.
            Likewise, Hades has Persephone as his counterpart. While he tends toward dignified repose, she can dish out the punishment, and is more to be feared than Hades is. Certainly she feels a large degree of independence, as well, for her to go ahead and have an affair with Adonis, particularly when Zeus gets involved to decree Adonis’s disposition.
            Zeus has his own female counterpart, but I’m not quite prepared to tell you who it is. We’ve just had 13 straight weeks of Persephone, so I think we need a bit of a hiatus from the Greeks. I’m thinking something Biblical for a bit.
            You want a hint about Zeus’s counterpart? Why? I’m not . . . fine. Okay, here’s a hint. He’s related to her. Yeah, I know, that’s not shocking since he’s related to most of the gods and goddesses. Well, too bad. Just deal with it for now. I’ll also say that she’s probably the most powerful of the Greek goddesses, putting all the others to shame with sheer scale of her power.
            Yep, that was another tease. Deal with it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

F3 A Lost Letter

            “Robert E. Lee, I believe,” the recovery was much quicker, but she couldn’t be sure how long she had stood there, mute, “changed the course of the war that day.”
            What’s happening to me?

            “The course of the war goes well for us, and I know how to defeat the Union at Gettysburg. Yes, they hold the high ground, but that is of little consequence. However, I cannot see the task through. I have lost faith in our cause, not that I ever held much to it to begin with. For too long has brother been warred against brother, and while many a good southerner will claim that this is a war about our sovereign rights to be free and choose for our own selves without the oppression and interference of northern states, it is not.

            “It’s my hypothesis that Robert E. Lee intentionally lost the battle of Gettysburg in order to force the South to reunite the country.

            “It is the fate of the negro to which we have tied ourselves, and whether it is the will of God Almighty that the negro is less of a man despite the red of the blood in his veins I know not. But I know I can no longer stand behind a cause that sees our great nation divided for so base a reason. Let it be done. Let us reunite this divided house and become once again a nation, a government, and settle our differences like men with our words instead of with our blood.
            “And so I must, to appease my conscience, commit a sin greater than any I’ve ever contemplated. I will send my men, my boys, to meet their end tomorrow. No matter what I must attack the Union forces with all the force I can muster. I must be tenacious in my convictions, and I will not rest until my army is in a shambles, broken on the spear of the Union forces.
            “I write this letter knowing it will never make it to you, for I will cast it into the flames so that none may know. I will see you soon my dearest Mary.

            “General Robert E. Lee”

Monday, March 20, 2017

M3 Godly Truths

            A point of this myth stands out to me now that didn’t before, and I think it’s related to what I talked about regarding Loki with the myths surrounding Ragnarok. The gods must tell the truth. Core (since it’s before she becomes Persephone) has the opportunity to either refute Hades’s gardener—exposing him as a liar—or to lie herself about eating the pomegranate seeds.
            She does neither.
            Hades, when he heard the gardener, was overjoyed that he would be able to swear an oath about Core’s eating habits, so I think that the Greek gods are similarly bound to the truth in the same way that the Norse gods are.
            Core may not have had to volunteer the information herself, but once brought to light, she could not say a word against it because it was true. The gardener, likewise, cannot lie. If we fold in the Bible, it seems there is a prohibition against lying across the big three mythologies—with an exception made for trickster figures. I’m now curious to see if the Egyptian would follow suit, and the Hindu as well.
            I think it’s also important to point out that the prohibition is strictly against lying as opposed to deception in general. Several of the Greek gods will employ disguises by changing their shape. Zeus alone could write a book on how he has used deception in order to have affairs with mortal women (a separate volume would be for the goddesses).
            So actions are not as strictly relegated as speech, as if it possesses a different quality—one more revered? In my recollection, none of the Greek gods has ever spoken a falsehood, which is intriguing. While the Norse were quite clear that Freyja had to speak the truth, there doesn’t appear to be anything overtly said about this concerning the Greeks. However, just because it’s not overtly stated doesn’t make it untrue. So far, whenever anything is spoken, it is the complete truth. Zeus even holds his tongue with Hades, saying neither yes or no regarding permission to court Core.
            When Demeter refuses to let the crops grow, she is not bluffing, as it appears she would be incapable of such. She is speaking an absolute truth that she will destroy all of humanity if her daughter is not returned to her. This also makes it clear that there is no negotiation to be had, no bargain to be struck. It is an absolute truth.

            This idea makes for an interesting thought regarding one of Zeus’s myths, where he requires an oath from the other gods. It bears further investigation, certainly.

Friday, March 17, 2017

F3 Someone Else's Flashback

            “Back to Gettysburg. No one denies that this the decisive battle of the Civil War. Had Robert E. Lee won the battle, the Confederacy almost certainly would have been able to hold off the Union.”

            “My Dearest Mary,”
            Alex blinked. For a moment she had been in a tent, lit by candles, staring down at a piece of parchment. The line in her mind was written on the parchment.
            “Sorry, the lights are a bit much,” she recovered. “As I was saying, this is a decisive battle. And it also stands out as Lee’s most famous defeat, which is unusual after his many victories and his reputation as a competent general.

            “My Dearest Mary,

                        “It is with heavy heart that I write this. My conscience will not let me rest. I know I am doing the right thing, yet it will cost the lives of so many good, young men.”

            She had been back in the tent, and the hands writing the letter had not been her own. Instead, they were old and gnarled with thick callouses, and a faint tremor in the left hand. Each hand poked out of grey sleeves embroidered with gold.

Monday, March 13, 2017

M3 War Over the Pretty Boy

War Over the Pretty Boy

            Adonis, born from his mother the tree, is very handsome. Aphrodite, goddess of love, is down with that, and wants to keep him for herself. So she locks him in a box—no one ever said that Greek mythology was free from abuse—and hands the box over to Persephone for safe keeping.
            The idea is that Persephone, being both the Queen of the Underworld and married to Hades, would be less inclined to do anything with Adonis. Plus, she’s supposed to keep the box locked tight and in secluded space so no one discovers him. Unfortunately for Aphrodite, Persephone is curious. She opens the box, discovers Adonis, and proceeds to make him her boy toy.
            Yes, she’s cheating on Hades. Affairs in Greek mythology are so common that they might as well be the normal instead of monogamy, but we have to remark on this one simply because of how gentlemanly Hades acted in courting her. And this is how she repays him.
            We have to conclude at this point that her power is such that she has no difficulty in brazenly cheating on him with Adonis. The affair was not kept private at all. When Aphrodite discovers what Persephone is doing, she takes the matter to Zeus. It’s a real People’s Court moment.
Both women want to possess Adonis. Zeus is in a pickle because on the one hand is his daughter Persephone and on the other is his daughter Aphrodite, neither of which he wishes to piss off. He does the only sensible thing and decides on shared custody. Persephone gets four months, Aphrodite four months, and Adonis has four months for himself. The entire affair would have been broadcast all over Olympus by taking the matter to Zeus, but Persephone shows no concern over Hades’s feelings.
The schedule is fine until Aphrodite cheats. She uses the power of her girdle (a belt) to make Adonis spend his own time with her, giving her twice as much time as what Persephone gets. However, it’s a legal play on the loophole, so no foul can be called. Again, Persephone is quite open about enjoying her boy toy, she’s just mad that Aphrodite outmaneuvered her and she gets shafted (less than she’d like) on the deal.
Hades actually takes no part in this myth, even though he would be well within his rights to take Adonis off the playing field. However, that honor goes to Ares. Persephone, not happy, informs the god of war of Aphrodite’s newest boy toy. Since that honor once belonged to Ares, he turns himself into a boar and kills Adonis.
Aphrodite, not into necrophilia, loses on this one. However, Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld, so Adonis would descend to her realm. She may have won that battle and continue to have herself a boy toy while still being married to Hades.

Friday, March 10, 2017

F3 Winging It

            She began pacing the stage, using her hands as much as her voice to speak, which clearly confused the other professors and administrators in the first couple of rows. She had no lecture notes, had no presentation, no digital apparatus to control a slideshow, not even an assistant to control things from behind the scenes.
            I’m just going to talk.
            “Before coming here, I had the opportunity to go to Gettysburg. The place is alive with old ghosts. The history of that place is in every stone, every blade of grass, and not a year goes by when some lucky visitor discovers a slug from an old rifle.”
            She pulled the small, clear plastic container from her pocket with the slug in it. The slug was covered with lead oxide, but had landed soft on the ground with no deformity. There were some oohs and ahhs, but they quickly faded.
            “Don’t tell the park police I have this.”
            That drew some laughs.
            “History is not found in a textbook, despite what we professors might tell you. It’s not even found in the writings of the people who were there. History is alive. It must be experienced to truly know it. What is not recorded is just as important, or even more important than what was.

Monday, March 6, 2017

M3 Unnatural Love

            After all the effort and gentlemanly behavior of Hades, Persephone doesn’t prove to be as caring. In fact, she has herself an affair with a mortal and kicks off a catfight with Aphrodite. Aphrodite is responsible for starting the whole thing . . . well, indirectly. Okay, let’s get into.
            So, Aphrodite rescued a child born from a myrrh tree. . . .
            Um, right. I need to rewind a bit more, don’t I?
            Right, this is more of an Aphrodite myth, but it does have a big dose of Persephone in it.
            Okay, so King Cinryas was an arrogant SOB, and he decided to boast that his daughter was more beautiful than Aphrodite. Classic mistake. We’ve already seen with the likes of Arachne and others that it’s a crazy-bad idea to ever boast that someone can do X better than one of the gods.
            But he did it anyway. Now, in the course of punishments handed down from the gods, the Acteon and Arachne generally top out the list as being the most famous, and received pretty severe punishments. Demeter has a nasty one about a man name Erysichthon—say that five times fast—where she makes him perpetually hungry. However, Aphrodite wins the prize in my book.
            When Cinryas makes his boast, Aphrodite gets revenge with her own style. Cinryas has a daughter, Smyrna. Instead of doing something directly to Cinryas, Aphrodite instead puts a whammy on Smyrna. She makes Smyrna fall uncontrollably in lust with her father.
            And she acts on this lust.
            Yup, the daughter rapes the father. He’s not really aware, either, since she slipped in at night. And she gets pregnant.
            Yeah, this is why Aphrodite wins this particular contest. PSA: do not ever, ever claim to be more beautiful than Aphrodite.
When Cinryas learns that he is both the father and grandfather of Smyrna’s unborn child, he kind of goes off the deep end. He wants to kill her and the child for the unnatural lust. Aphrodite felt a little bad over what happened, so, at the last moment, she turned Smyrna into a myrrh tree. Cinryas’s sword cut the tree in half, and out fell a baby boy.
This sure beats the idea of the stork, right?
This baby boy is Adonis, and he becomes the object of Persephone’s affections, but we’ll tackle that next week.

Friday, March 3, 2017

F3 Opening Remarks

[I know I'm supposed to continue on with Matt's serial story, but I'm going to take a little break for March, but I'll get back to him.]

            Alex waited patiently as the vice president of the college finished the introduction. The veep was pedantic and boring, and it was all Alex could do to stay awake, even though the introduction was nothing but flattery for the guest of honor: Alex.
            “She has published twelve books that have all hit the New York Times’ bestseller list,” the veep droned. “A remarkable feat for any author, much less a history professor.” A few chuckles from the audience on that. “Join me in welcoming our visiting professor for the semester, Dr. Alexandra Conrad.”
            The lecture hall erupted in applause, though some of it clearly was not enthusiastic as much as it was obligatory as a forced social custom. Alex stood, taking the hand of the veep, who pumped her arm a little too much.
            Alex switched on her earpiece mike instead of taking the podium. “Thank you, Vice President Hallsey,” Alex forced a pleasant smile. “It’s an honor to be here. I’m looking forward to my classes this semester and this special advanced lecture today here at DeGradi University. Go Trappers!”
            The team got more cheers than she did, but that was almost always the case. It was only the third year in a row she had ben farmed out to other universities, but never so far from home before.
            Paul has a lot to answer for on this one, but I don’t have the leverage to stop him. It was a damn fine loophole he found to get me out of his hair since he doesn’t have cause to fire me.
            “Well, now. I suppose I could go into my books, my teaching methodology, or how successful I’ve been as a professor to my students, but I think I’d rather get to the heart of this special lecture: Gettysburg.”
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